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What were the Real Reasons?

Discussion in 'Prelude to War & Poland 1939' started by Tamino, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    I have several related questions:

    Why those nations that considered themselves as cultured and carriers of development of humane society have entangled into a savage era of genocide, repression, indecorous treatment of sovereign nations and war that lasted 30 years, from 1914 to 1945?

    Why France and Britain imposed un-democratic rule in their overseas possessions in Africa and South-East Asia, right after the victory over the enemies of democracy?

    Was protection of democracy really the central concern or that was something else, more tangible?

    Any ideas? Opinions?
     
  2. Victor Gomez

    Victor Gomez Ace

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    "How big you can dream" is some explanation for these problems. I am very biased in having been a History/Government teacher for a short period of time(5 yrs).... I have always found there is a bigger dream made possible by life under the U.S. Constitution. However that does not mean that those who possess it use it to the best possible. Those that don't possess it have also used it as a standard to raise their own level of dreaming to set goals for a higher standard. It also follows that most of what is considered the "Old World" is often vexed in the traditional differences of culture that has always been a source of contention and dis unity. Only where people dream big can these problems be overcome by multiple cultures. This is the most important of lessons I see that history can provide us with in our progression towards more liberty and freedoms. We need to understand how we have benefited from these elements to be able to continue the progress and not step back into "Old World" thinking. Often, it is easier to be pessimistic and that which is not dreamed of cannot be attained. It is harder to be optimistic and attain the elements of our dreams. The U.S. Constitution was not made by perfect people creating a perfect system......instead they realized they were imperfect and crafted a means to be a guidance to lead to something better, however we have to follow and use it with that in mind to remember to improve our many imperfections. No doubt we may stumble along the way....does anyone have a better idea?
     
  3. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    I often type up responds and never post them, but I'll let this one out...

    I don't think democracy was a major interest of GB and France in 1918. I think the democracy agenda was brought by Wilson and somewhat reluctantly accepted by the leaders of the other powers. Ironically while the masses outside America had high hopes for democracy, the American populace had little interest in the project and was easily led away from engagement with the world.

    I don't know if Wilson had other results in mind for his democracy agenda but after 1945, it became a tool to disrupt the remains of these former empires. And then selectively applied under the threat of communism.

    I think the major concern was stability and the maintenance of viable economic spheres. Good reasons in themselves, but possibly incidental to keeping their own democracy which could be fragile under economic strain as events in Germany later demonstrated.
     
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  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Tamino, this is just my own opinion of course, and could easily be correct or wrong completely. After the “War to end all War” in 1918 and the signing of the Versailles Treaty in Paris (which America didn’t sign), Woodrow Wilson’s views of “self-determination” were not only widely rejected by the continental powers, but also not accepted by the US either.

    Here might be one of the reasons we (America) were reluctant to sign on completely in the self-determination portion, we were now in control of what amounted to our own “colonies”, even though we called them “protectorates”. After 1898, not only did we hold power in the former Spanish colonies of the Philippines, as well as its other Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico, American businessmen had also overthrown a legitimate sovereign nation in Hawaii, and installed a forced government on them before the Spanish-American war.

    America wasn’t dealing from a “clean slate” here, and telling European powers that they couldn’t have colonial possessions, and exploit them would have been two-faced to say the least. The French and British colonies had to be seen as major profit sources post WW1, to help them recover from the cost of the war, pay their war debts to America, since Germany wasn’t and couldn’t pay the retribution amounts. The German colonies in the Pacific were split between the Japanese (above the equator), and the French and British (below the equator).

    This state of affairs went on until the Second World War concluded, and some of the very same problems arose. The UK and France were broke, owed money again to the US of A, and needed to exploit their colonies for salable goods and material. Belgium also exploited its remaining areas of influence (Congo), trying to dig its way out of debt and rebuild its devastated home. Britain eventually gave its colonies their independence over time, but those small new nations did extremely poorly as independent nations. The French were even more incalcitrant in Indo-China, and by the time they were thrown out we (America) were forced to support the non-communist government left in the south.

    America ended up supporting far too many dictators globally, in both the eastern and western hemispheres trying to “halt” the spread of the great new enemy; COMMUNISM!! In this new world, ideals (of democracy/freedom) have little effect on pragmatic application when two diametrically opposed government types collide. The new “Cold War” would continue from the immediate post war era, probably most clearly defined by the Berlin Blockade in 1948, to the end of the USSR as a unified nation.

    Like it or not it certainly was economics more than ideology that kept the colonies under their thumbs post-WW2. It was colonies which made the “old” European nations wealthy and powerful after all, I am sure they felt that this history of exploitation of the “lesser” peoples would work again to save their nations. Just my own thoughts of course.
     
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  5. scipio

    scipio Member

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    No, I think the idea of self-determination was widely accepted and indeed welcomed by the majority of Europeans. The problem came in the implementation and France's fear of a new stronger Germany arising again. Every minority thought that it if it attracted Wilson's attention it would get self-determination - there was bound to be widespread disappointment, given the horrible mix of populations in central and southern europe, although the principle was a noble one.

    Self determination was bad news for the French since logical implementation would result in Germany growing even larger with the inclusion of Germans from Austria, Sudetenland, Tyrol, Silesia, etc.

    This led to the creation of some major anomalies in the states surrounding Germany which were only too easily exploited by Hitler. The same but to a lesser occurred on the the Eastern borders of Poland and Rumania where the Allies never quite knew how to deal with Bolshevik Russia (was she a threat to their internal democracies or a support against German revival?)


    To be accurate they were split between the Commonwealth - Australia and NZ and France. In fact Prime Minister Hughes of Australia was probably the most hawkish of the participants at Versailles and seemed to be forever pushing Lloyd George into a more extreme position plus annoying Wilson.

    In truth the British were interested in the Mediterranean and hoped that they could disengage from the Continent.

    I think it had always been un-democratic. It was easy to explain away to their conscience in Africa etc - these were uncivilised peoples (pagans even) who were to be introduced gradually to the benefits of the Western Democracy and Christianity - the "white-man's burden" and "mission civilisatrice - France".

    Inter-war the effect of Ghandi and India was very profound - and polarised opinion in Great Britain but it was clear that by the 1930's that India would be offered Dominion status.

    Basically Britain did not see Europe as key -
     
  6. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    b^.^d
    I was afraid that this thread would remain with no response, but, obviously, I was wrong. There is a great deal of genuine intellectual charge in this community. Thanks guys. It is pleasure to read these great responses. Frankly, initially I had just questions but no clue at all how to answer them.
     
  7. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I believe you misunderstood me here, while the majority of the "populace" of Europe might well have embraced the concept, their own governments didn't agree and those in power control the outcome of "radical" changes in the power-structure. This is what I was trying to convey "scipio".
     
  8. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Hell, I'm giving him a 'like' just for using "indecorous", even though I think he meant something else! ;)
     
  9. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Thanks for the like, but I indeed meant what I've just said. For example: Chamberlain and Hitler treated Czechoslovakia in the way conflicting with widely accepted standards of good conduct or good taste. I guess that's exactly what the word "indecorous" means in English language.
     
  10. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    To describe anything that was done to sell the Czech's down the river as was done should not be given reference to in terms that conjure visions of "decoration".

    To determine the entire political and social future of a nation to it's detriment to guarantee "Peace in our time" was nothing short of disgraceful.
     
  11. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    In 1914 there was no "Declaration of Human Rights" or Social Welfare as we know it. The definition of what was considered 'culture' was under question even then. It was very much a propaganda issue in the First World War. Colonialism was viewed more as a fact of life, rather than wearing on the social consciences of the collective liberal majority, as a lot of these social issues started to do after both World Wars.

    For that matter, what-ever happened to the 'New' Society that was supposed to come as a natural result of the end of the Second World War? 'The Post War Dream' was no urban myth while the war was still in progress. But the very speed of post-war history swept this firmly under the carpet of events, never to return to the agenda.

    Remember, too, Versailles was a 'patchwork' treaty from it's conception. None of it's signatories could agree on many of it's terms. It was designed to stop the fighting on Allied terms. The Central Powers were boxed out of the negotiations, and even the victors Allies like Japan and Italy were marginalized in the rush to redraw the map.
     
  12. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I would argue that the concept of "Self-determination" was almost as important - for the first time groups with similarities could argue for their Group Rights and Nationhood. Today it is taken for granted that Self Determination is the first measure for Nationhood - so however else Wilson and Versailles failed, it has left an important legacy.

    Your are right brntdirt1, the rulers for the most part were working to an older concept of the winner divides up the loser's spoils. They were generally quite successful in subverting Wilson's Principle eg the Serbs arguing that Croats, speaking the same language and ethnicity should be incorporated into Yugoslavia and we all know what a disaster that led to.

    The complaint of Italy (and maybe Japan) was that it was not awarded it share of the spoils - in particular Dalmatia (happy to be corrected). If they had accepted self-determination this would be a non-starter, despite their argument that Venice had once owned this coastline.

    Also Wilson opened a crack in Colonialism when he insisted that the German Colonies were to be Mandates with the "Civilised Colonial Power" under an obligation to bring the territory to Self Rule (eventually).

    I think there were forces such as the Left wing\Socialists in Britain for example who were starting to support anti-Colonialism and you can see their effect in India.
     
  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Why France and Britain imposed un-democratic rule in their overseas possessions in Africa and South-East Asia, right after the victory over the enemies of democracy?

    They didn't impose any new un-democratic rule; their empires, and the means of ruling and administering them, were well established before the war. The Allies also took over former German colonies, but the new overlords probably seemed much the same as the old to the natives.
     
  14. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    One correction here, while the was no universal "Declaration of Human Rights" (that wouldn't be espoused/adopted until the UN was established), there most certainly was Social Welfare, or government care for its citizens. Most importantly Imperial Germany, who led the field in this area.

    Great Britain and France were both behind the curve compared to Germany pre-WW1, and America wasn't even in the game until T.R. got a few sections of worker's rights passed. I am saying this because as early as the 1880's the Kaiser's Germany had implemented the programs we today place into the "government welfare" programs. Starting with unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, universal health care, and worker's compensation. I believe there were also maximum work hours per week included.
     
  15. scipio

    scipio Member

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    It was not just German colonies - the Ottoman Empire had been smashed into pieces.

    Firstly in 1918 none of the Allies gave up any Colony whether this be American, French, British, Belgian or Italian. I know this is a delicate point with the USA in view of its republican roots but America had a sizable Empire and was not too worried about putting down insurrection in the Philippines with pretty heavy hand prior to 1914. So I agree with brndt on this point - America could not preach too much.

    However, I think this was the start of movement in the inter war years against colonisation which culminated in Independence for India 1947, Burma 1948, Philippines 1946 and Malaya once communists were defeated.

    The Mandate system was the start - There were three categories - (A) being the closest to Independence will many of the functions of Government in Local hands. This was the situation in the British Mandated ex-Ottoman possessions of Iraq and Palestine\Transjordan. A commission of including countries such a Norway oversaw the treatment of the Territories and Iraq was the first to be brought to independence with it gained from Britain in 1935 before WW2. Palestine would have followed but the thorny question of Jew and Arab was a huge problem - the British were only too pleased to leave in 1948.

    Category B were territories which were thought to require more Government from the "Colonial power" - these were the German African and Pacific former colonies. I think you have to remember that these peoples were often regarded as "children" in the early part of the 20th Century, tribal, often warlike, incapable of governing themselves. There was little profit if any in any of these areas.

    Category C were areas which were thought to be better incorporated into a larger colonial territory.

    Other than Iraq (which provided oil for the British Navy via British Petroleum! curses- my American friends), there was no financial gain in owning the others. However, Palestine protected the Suez Canal and Tanzania add the missing piece in the Cape to Cairo line of Commonwealth countries.
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

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    If I might jump in here, I'd like to point out that those old human frailties, greed, power, revenge and lust for more of the same came into play, both at the end of WW1 and thereafter. Each country created and nurtured the myth that they were something special as far as the human race was concerned and just a bit better than their neighbors. Peoples in the third world weren't seen as equals so didn't have the same rights as "civilized" Europeans. Colonies were seen as a prerequisite for global power and prestige. Even after WW2 both England and France strove to hold on to their colonies on the other side of the globe. As long as money and power are involved, we will never see governments/countries change their behavior unless they are forced to. They will however, point their finger at others. There may be a declaration of human rights but let's face it, one only has the rights one is able to defend.
     
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  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    While the protectorates of the US didn't add too much in the more common products, they supplied America with a great many food stuffs that sometimes go ignored. For instance, America was more dependent of cane sugar pre-WW2, and while we got 50% of our cane sugar from Cuba the rest came from places like Hawaii, and the Philippines. We also got most of our Vanilla beans from the Philippines, and coconut meat, oil, palm oil, and copra (life vest material) as well. These aren't the "gee-whiz" things like oil, but still vital to an economy.
     
  18. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Agreed but every so often the Human race amazes itself for example the abolition of slavery, parliamentary democracy.

    I think colonialism was going the same way even without WW1 and WW2, Western people were beginning to see that it was morally wrong.
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Agreed, Scipio, people were starting to question the wisdom and morality of colonies. However, France and Britain didn't give up their major colonies of their free will. They were forced to abandon them because colonized peoples took their land back. The ruling elites of France and Britain (including W.L.S. Churchill and Charlie De Gaulle) felt that as long as they had an empire, they were still great powers. Therefore, they felt that keeping people under subjugation was perfectly legitimate. Unfortunately, the history of white Europeans is generally one of proclaiming the right and then doing the exact opposite.
     
  20. scipio

    scipio Member

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    .

    But is not that true of America as well. The British Public (who were pretty racist themselves) were scandalised by the treatment of Black American Soldiers by their own white Comrades in WW2.
     

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